Recalling ‘The Decline of Video Gaming’

Did British teens see the future fourteen years ago?

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Dim, Dan, and JT.

With such a bright time, gaming looked like it would last forever. Little did we know that we drew ever closer to our self-manufactured downfall!

A collaboration of brothers Dim and Tom (Super Flash Bros.) and their friends Dan and JT (Double Helix), the Decline series set a standard for quality flash animation in a bubbling genre that now permeates the Web, even if these creators are mostly forgotten now. One of their voice acting partners on this project, who still enjoys online celebrity, is none other than Egoraptor. He is better known today by his real name, Arin Hanson, and his gut-busting rage as he films himself playing video games, in a series known as Game Grumps. Indeed, Arin is one of the few titans of this period that has remained in the spotlight.

The Money Side of It

As technological demands of more advanced games has grown, development has become quite expensive. AAA games are a multi-million dollar investment, and the need to make all of that back leads firms to adopt a couple of strategies. One thing they do is to make a game that is generally popular and will capture a large share of the general gamer base. This is why franchises are constantly milked dry; there is often no money in a risky, experimental title. The film industry operates with this mindset, so it is not surprising that gaming would follow suit. With small margins, developers need volume to win the day, and so playing safe has its rewards.

The Culture Wars

Games are supposed to be an escape. They are supposed to be an egress from the usual misery of daily life.

In the first episode, we see the trio come across a game called Ghetto Party 5, which recreates Mario Party with contemporary rap artists. Dan laments it as “another attempt to appeal to the entire market at once.” While this title never came into being, the problem that he noted ultimately did. In order to capture as large of a market share as possible (due to the financial constraints previously mentioned), gaming companies have started to embrace identity politics and its goal of “diversity” as their best strategy.

The Rise of the Amateurs

One benefit of the growth of technology, however, is the proliferation of amateur talent in gaming. Decline really marks the beginning of this period, as amateur Flash games came alongside these amateur animations. It allowed for some neat titles. Does anyone remember Bullet Time Fighting? How about Desktop Tower Defense? These simple games turned out to be quite fun to play. Even Super Flash Bros. made some of their own games, which turned into a viable career for them. Their recent work, Snipperclips, was even picked up by Nintendo.

I discuss politics, economics, art, video games, and other interests.

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